It was the oddest thing yesterday afternoon, listening as my eldest son cheered Carlos Beltran’s RBI single in the fifth versus the Giants. We were watching the televised game ‘together’ on the phone* – me, in suburban St. Louis…Chris, half-a-continent away in Berkeley, just across the bay from San Francisco.
Suddenly, Chris interrupted an unrelated thought to yelp in delight at the run-scoring hit. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in front of my flat-screen, mystified…because in the picture I’m seeing at that moment, the hurler hadn’t even begun his wind-up.
Easy enough to explain, I guess: I’d been sucked in by some sort of satellite delay in the ‘real-time’ broadcast. (And technologically intriguing, I might add: I even speculated out loud for a moment about how Chris and I might be able to parlay the transmission delay into some sort of sure-fire online betting scheme. But I digress.)
The mixed-media episode caught my attention as a spiritual ‘find’, though, when I started thinking about how it compared to Sunday’s gospel reading. One of the Twelve, it seems, also experienced the first-century equivalent of a satellite delay: Thomas wasn’t in the room when the resurrected Christ initially appeared to the apostles. And the evangelist tells us that Thomas had a little trouble believing what his eyes were not privileged to see.
Ripping on Thomas for his disbelief is almost as easy as Beltran laying that sweet swing of his on a Ryan Vogelsong fastball. But are we really all that much different from the original Doubting Thomas? Don’t we sometimes wish that there had been a video camera in the room on the evening of that first Sunday of the week? Or a YouTube posting, perhaps, of Jesus’ greatest miracles? Wouldn’t we all love to have been a mouse in Peter’s pocket when the Master stooped to wash his feet at the Last Supper?
If we’re not careful, though, this affection for real-time results…for certainty…for proof-beyond-shadow-of-a-doubt…can grow into spiritual disease. It can harden our hearts. It can keep us from actually ‘going deep’ with the Lord.
Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, goes so far as to say that we should be grateful when we experience uncertainty. ‘…doubt stretches us beyond ourselves to the guidance of a God whose face is not always in books,” she writes in Uncommon Gratitude. ‘It is at the point where we desire to see, because deep down our hearts believe what our minds cannot explain, that faith sets in.’
And isn’t it great to know that Christ is there, wanting to bless our unbelief, just as he did for Thomas? ‘Put your finger here,’ he beckons. ‘Let go of your doubts…look up, and be touched by Me.’
*Please don’t judge us for incorporating the Cardinals broadcast into our father-son chat. The truth is, we have shared some of life’s most profound mysteries in televised games viewed separately, but together. Cardinal baseball may not be ‘holy ground’ for the two of us. But it’s close!